Based on Michael Moore’s history, audiences at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre expect the star of the new solo show to rail against our current President, call for his resignation, wonder aloud how America elected him. But the show isn’t all pomp and protest; Moore certainly meets those expectations, but he also delivers unexpected inspiration. Through stories about his own life of activism—a path that began accidentally—Moore demonstrates that no matter your political views, the tiniest act can lead to big change. At the end of the day, Moore’s true message is about the underestimated power of the individual. Here are a selection of stories from Moore’s life he used to make his point:
The Elk’s Club
When Moore was in high school, he attended Boys State, a type of “young leaders of tomorrow type of convention for 3,000 boys in Michigan. Sounds like the type of event a young Michael Moore would jump at. Truth is, he dreaded it and locked himself in his dorm room. But when he finds out the (at the time) Caucasian-only Elks Club is sponsoring a speech contest with the prompt Abraham Lincoln, the hypocrisy incites Moore to write a speech and compete. His speech gets picked up by national news; Walter Cronkite reported the story on CBS. Within the year, the Elks Club integrated and the law of the land changed: Private organizations could no longer discriminate based on race. The details of Moore’s first act of public protest are both hilarious and thought-provoking.
The Board of Education
When Moore was 18, he was also the youngest elected official in the United States when he became president of the board of education in Davison, Michigan. Again, sounds predictable. But Moore wasn’t trying to do anything radical in his school district. In fact, his platform ran on the sole goal of firing the Principal and Vice Principal of his school after the VP used school-sanctioned physical punishment on him. Moore proves in this story how easy it is to run for office, why no one should disqualify themselves from holding office, and the attainability of change.
Reagan in Bitburg
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan embarked on a trip to Germany and included a stop at Bitburg cemetery to lay wreaths on the graves of Nazi soldiers. Cozying up in his onstage living room, Moore tells the story of how he and his Jewish friend—whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, but lost he rest of his ancestors in concentration camps—bought $69 flights to Hamburg and weaseled their way in to the cemetery simply to hold up a sign in protest. Nothing more. Once again, the story was broadcast nationally and from a $69 flight came a national dialogue.
The New Jersey Librarian
Before September 11, 2001, Moore had written his book Stupid White Men. HarperCollins was set to publish it, but after the terrorist attacks requested new edits to the text. When Moore refused, the publishing house decided to pulp the 50,000 printed copies. Thinking the book would never see the light of day, Moore read a couple chapters at a speaking engagement of his at a library in Englewood, New Jersey. He told the crowd the book would not be published. Well, a librarian in that audience felt empowered to change that. She mobilized the network of librarians nationwide and called for HarperCollins to publish the book in its original form. Today, thanks to an email, it is a bestseller.